Category Archives: Gardening

Summer Harvesting in North Florida

It is hot here. Very, very hot. I didn't think anything would grow due to the extreme heat. And, we didn't want to have to do an excessive amount of watering. But, thankfully, I have a smart cookie for a husband who does his Florida gardening research.

And, so let me say this here in this space: he was right about the calabaza vines and the eggplant. 🙂

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(a baby calabaza over a month ago)

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We have gotten at least ten of these head-sized pumpkins. They are a fleshy peach color and taste similar to butternut squash or fresh pumpkin. I cut them open and roast them in the oven and store the flesh to make pumpkin pie or pumpkin muffins. We've also been making a cubed squash recipe with white beans and fresh herbs. Yum.

And, on those days when we brave the grill outside?

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The eggplant is ours. Grown in our front yard (where we get sun). We use this recipe – delicious. (And spread some on the accompanying zucchini and onions too). And, finally, since this seems to be an "I eat my words" kind of post (with regards to the garden)…I bring you the watermelon.

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We planted these back in March…everyone else harvested watermelons in early July. So, we did too. Only the first two we picked were light pink and still kind of white…and not very tasty. I assumed they were grown in poor soil (we just stuck the two plants in a patch where we had taken down 4 trees). So, we left the remaining ones on the vine. I was ready to abandon the remaining four watermelon…give them up to the compost bin without even cutting them. But, my lovely husband gave them a final chance – and we are so happy he did. This watermelon had been sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks and he cut it one night…and it was soooo good. I'm looking forward to eating the other ones as well. And, so are the kids.

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the garden post

While I do not consider us prolific gardeners (yet), I would say that this year we have proven that we are getting a little bit better at growing our own food. It could be the change of climate. Since we are in north Florida now, we have a little bit more wiggle room with regards to plants. We are no longer limited to those plants that thrive in the tropics. Now, we have tomatoes and squash and cucumbers. Then, there's the beans and the okra and the calabaza pumpkins (a heat-loving variety that is ripening as we speak). We also bought most of our starter plants at the local farmer's market – a prefect place to know what is in season and what we should avoid in the Florida heat. Did I mention that we also have grown watermelons? Successfully? The kids couldn't have been more excited…and neither could we.

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And, just for record keeping for next year — the cherry tomatoes have done well, though they've stayed small. We've still harvested at least a pint between the two plants. The zuccinin did not like the 10 hours of direct sunlight in this Florida heat. They should be planted in partial shade. The yellow-orange lemon boys have produced at least 45 tomatoes, not to mention the six or seven that Calum has pulled off and were too little or green to ripen. And, there are still another 45 on the plants. (It's hard to squash that harvesting excitement, though, we are trying to redirect it just a bit).

Our two watermelon plants (one seedless, one seeded) have both actually grown to a the size of a small basketball. This is much more than we thought due to the fact that we had planted them in the space where we took down three of our trees (and we worried the soil was a bit lax, but a little fish emulsion seemed to help with that).

I realize that people have been growing their own food for thousands of years. I know this. But, man, it is really cool when we do it ourselves. We already have a plan to increase our food production space (thank you, Backyard Homestead). We will amend our soil with compost in the next few months and get ready to start again in October. We may even try our hand at growing some of our plants from seed. Who knows. Either way, we know we've been bitten by this bug. A self-sufficiency bug? A save-the-planet kind of bug? A clean-food bug? The nice thing is…we think our kids have been bitten too.

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Spring!

It's a bit late for a post about Spring, but because "Spring" is such a beautiful time in Florida, we usually spend all of our time outside. Thus, very little computer or TV time. We have to soak up all of the nice weather before it gets too hot. (Like the last couple of days…in the 90s!)

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Painting. A very nice activity that was recently introduced to Calum. Outside. And, smoothie pops. Also, an outside activity. I do have a few cleanliness rules.

Ronan was very excited to be able to paint since he usually only has a chance to do so while Calum is taking a nap. But, this time, they both shared the watercolor set and Calum "helped" Ronan with his picture. They both really enjoyed it and I enjoyed the time spent sitting in the chair nearby. This will definitely be a repeat activity – assuming Calum has sinced learned that we do not drink the cup of water near the paints.

We've also been spending a lot of time watching our garden grow. In February, our plants bloomed and we have been eating salads daily.

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(late February)

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(early April)

The gorgeous bluish-purple bushes are red cabbage.(In the top of the above picture). They needed more light than they were getting with a winter sun, but they are really taking off now. But, our lettuce is bolting. However, we have just planted a few other "plots" with summer veggies. Bring on the tomatoes, okra and eggplant. (Hopefully).

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WIth the nicer weather, the kids are on the back porch much more often. One afternoon while Calum was napping and I was hanging out on the porch with Ronan, he drew this picture. He started with the ant hill and the ants going below. Then, he decided he needed to draw the ground (so we would know the ants were below the ground) and he added the grass for effect. Finally, there needed to be more ants (I think to symbolize the large amounts in our backyard) and those are the dots everywhere. I was thoroughly impressed.

 

Outdoor Transformations

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There's something about trying to be "green" that makes me cringe when I make this confession : we just had a large number of very, very tall trees cut down in our yard. In my defesnse, our yard is full of cherry laurels and water oaks, many of which are over 80 feet tall…and close to the house. These aren't the kind of trees to you want lingering in your yard. Perhaps, a live oak or two…

And, so we have begun the long process of eventually removing many of these trees (because we still have plenty left). But, we learned a lot about our space and we got some "free" mulch out of it, which has already been put to good use, of course. Plus, the boys had a blast and now, instead of a farmer or an astronaut, Ronan would like to be the owner of the tree cutting service. (Yes, he specified that he would like to be the guy who sometimes gets to be in the bucket truck, but not always…rather the guy who gets to give the orders). Observation is a powerful tool.

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